The changing picture of long-term international migration, England and Wales: Census 2021

View as a webpage

office for national statistics

The changing picture of long-term international migration, England and Wales: Census 2021

27 January 2023

Today, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published an article on the changing picture of long-term international migration, England and Wales: Census 2021. This is the first of a series of detailed articles on the topic of international migration that we are producing using data from Census 2021.

The article provides analysis of the migrant population of England and Wales and how it has changed, looking at the characteristics of country of birth and passports held. It also includes analysis of economic activity and industry of employment of the non-UK-born population, as well as the characteristics of those who arrived in recent years. 

The main findings from the analysis presented in this article include:

  • In 2021, 10.0 million (16.8%) usual residents in England and Wales were born outside of the UK, an increase of 2.5 million from 2011.
  • The proportion of non-UK-born residents has increased across all regions of England, with London (positive 3.9 percentage points), East of England (positive 3.9 percentage points) and the East Midlands (positive 3.8 percentage points) showing the largest increases since 2011; Wales (positive 1.4 percentage points) also saw an increase, but this was much lower comparatively.
  • Among the non-UK-born population of England and Wales, those from other EU countries (Cyprus, Malta and Croatia) were most likely to hold a British passport (71.2%), followed by Africa (63.0%) and the Middle East and Asia (59.1%); India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were the top three countries of birth with the highest number of UK passport holders.
  • People born in Romania and Bulgaria (EU2) and EU8 countries have the highest employment rates; the most common industry for EU-born was wholesale and retail and repair of motor vehicles (15.8%), while for non-EU-born it was human health and social work (19.5%).
  • In the year before Census 2021, the most common non-UK long-term migrant arrivals to England and Wales were from India, Romania and China for both country of birth and passports held; most recent arrivals from India and China are much younger than the typical resident population, driven by a higher proportion of students.
  • Recent arrivals in the year before Census 2021 are more likely to be economically inactive students compared with those who have lived in the UK for longer; however, those born in the EU2 and EU8 have higher rates in employment and are more likely to have migrated for work than study.

You can keep up to date with our Census 2021 Release plans on the ONS website. 

Read the article

Jay Lindop

Jay Lindop is head of the Centre for International Migration.You can follow Jay on Twitter for the latest in migration statistics news @JayLindop_ONS.

Contact us

We would welcome any comments on any of our products. Please contact with any feedback you may have.

You have received this message because you have subscribed to the ONS migration and population statistics mailing list.  You can manage your preferences or unsubscribe at any time using the links at the foot of this email.

Our stakeholder privacy notice is viewable here.